I haven’t listened to Holy F*ck’s older work very much, but from what I can tell Deleter is the band going in quite a different direction. Prominent vocals are pretty uncommon for them, but this album includes 3 tracks with featured singers. They are Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip, Angus Andrew of Liars, and Nick Allbrook of Pond and (formerly) Tame Impala. The types of groups that these artists come from reveal the genre-bending style that Holy F*ck have decided to go with on the latest release: danceable, pop-based electronic rock.
Deleter begins with ‘Luxe’, a song I’ve been digging since it was released as a single. Holy F*ck usually starts their songwriting process with an improv jam, often originating from their live show. That’s quite apparent in the first half of ‘Luxe’, which is a long, slow-building introduction to the album. When Alexis Taylor’s vocals appear over the instrumental, the first lyrics on the album are “I’d like to scrap all of this / And start over again”, so it’s clear what the band’s intent was when recording Deleter. When the song eventually reaches its final form, you can see how exactly the sound will be different from previous albums. It’s much more rooted in electronica while their first few releases were math rock with electronic elements, in a similar style to Battles. The climax of the song features a driving drum beat underneath some infectious synth lines, and the vocals floating around all over the mix. The drumming, particularly on this song, is perhaps the most clear change from Holy F*ck’s older work, with the more organic percussion sounds turning into motorik, seemingly programmed drum machines.
The majority of Deleter is Holy F*ck showcasing their less abrasive and more melodic side, with atypically clean production. The perfect example of this progression is the upbeat and euphoric ‘Free Gloss’, featuring a bright pop hook and soaring, distorted vocals from Pond frontman Nick Allbrook. The song has a similar feel to much of Pond’s recent output, with its combination of danceable grooves, psychedelia, and just straight up fun. But as shown by ‘Near Mint’, this album isn’t entirely in the new electronica style. This song doesn’t go all the way back to the band’s old sound, but it has more typical instrumentation and a fairly straightforward song structure. In fact it would fit in perfectly on Wand’s Laughing Matter, which was probably the best psych. rock album of 2019. The excellent ‘Endless’ has a similar psychedelic vibe, with the very trippy intro that eventually morphs into the song’s main melody.
‘Moment’ is probably when Holy F*ck sound most like their classic sound on the album. It features a heavy-ish guitar riff, and a more urgent pace than some of the other songs. And in typical fashion, it surprises you with a complete change of direction halfway through before building back up to the groove that it started with. But the danceable drum beat and punchy synths throughout still keep it within the theme of the album.
Holy F*ck are a group that have worked very hard to defy expectations, from their name to their songwriting process, to their constantly shifting sound. Deleter is an excellent next step into territory that their previous album, Congrats, began to explore, and for me it’s their most enjoyable yet. Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a drop in quality in the last few tracks, but the album’s best moments of ‘Luxe’, ‘Deleters’, and ‘Endless’ more than make up for it. And the climax of ‘Ruby’, the final song, still allows Deleter to end on a high note, showing that Holy F*ck aren’t anywhere close to being done flexing their creative muscles.